March 1st 2004
To distinguish between hypertensive emergencies and urgencies and nonurgent acute blood pressure elevation, evaluate the patient for evidence of target organ damage. Perform a neurologic examination that includes an assessment of mental status; any changes suggest hypertensive encephalopathy. Funduscopy can detect papilledema, hemorrhages, and exudates; an ECG can reveal evidence of cardiac ischemia. Order urinalysis and measure serum creatinine level to evaluate for kidney disease. The possible causes of a hypertensive emergency include essential hypertension; renal parenchymal or renovascular disease; use of various illegal, prescription, or OTC drugs; CNS disorders; preeclampsia or eclampsia; and endocrine disorders. A hypertensive emergency requires immediate blood pressure reduction (although not necessarily to the reference range) with parenteral antibiotics. An urgency is treated with combination oral antihypertensive therapy.